National Public Radio today launched what it calls an "experiment" to deliver its audio content to listeners in a new way: Infinite Player. It's a non-stop, "lean-back," listener-influenced stream of NPR content one might liken to "Pandora for spoken word content."
"The explosion of Internet-connected devices has created listening opportunities almost everywhere... vastly expanding the ways people find and listen to audio," NPR writes in a blog entry, introducing the service. "Many of these new use cases lend themselves particularly well, if not exclusively, to this 'distracted' listening model... Audio is playing in the background. You may be listening quite intently. But you're also doing other things."
NPR fans could always simply tune in to a member station, either traditionally or online. NPR also offers a "live" non-stop stream of its programming. In either case, it's "hit a button and go" listening, but neither can be tailored to reflect the listener's taste. It's purely "push" programming. On the other side of the coin, NPR.org offers listeners thousands of hours of on-demand programming, from its most popular shows to the latest news cast, interviews, and in-depth journalism. The listener can hunt and choose for exactly what she wants, or queue stories in a playlist to run consecutively. "All this requires a lot of the user's attention," writes NPR. "That model works very well for some people in some cases; but it's a far cry from the roots of radio in which the listener simply hits a button and listens."
Enter Infinite Player. Launch the stream, and NPR's latest "top of the hour" newscast plays. Then, it automatically begins to stream a series of on-air items ("stories we think you'll like from NPR's three main focus areas, news, arts and life, and music"). The player allows you to skip to the next item, pause, and "30-second rewind" (like you might find on a DVR).
There's also "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" buttons designed to enable the listener to "teach" the player the types of items she likes to hear most (by way of example, NPR specifically mentions Facebook, Zite, Flipboard, Pandora, and YouTube's LeanBack).
Read NPR's blog entry on the new Infinite Player here. Give it a try here (You'll have to either register or sign in with an NPR login, or Facebook, Yahoo, or Google ID. Also, it only works in Chrome or Safari at the moment.).